ABU DHABI // Tourism chiefs are celebrating the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque’s status as the world’s second most popular landmark.

This week, the travel website TripAdvisor released its list of the world’s top 25 landmarks, with the capital’s Grand Mosque beaten only by the ancient Incan site of Machu Picchu in Peru.

“This is excellent and deserving news for both the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque Centre and Abu Dhabi as a destination,” said Sultan Al Dhaheri, the acting executive director at the emirate’s Tourism and Culture Authority.

“The mosque regularly comes out among our top attractions in visitor surveys undertaken by us, and I think all who do visit, particularly on the complimentary tours conducted by Emirati guides, leave impressed and with a better understanding of our culture.

“It is an attraction for all ages and nationalities.”

The mosque’s high position in the list reflected the 4,462 reviews it received in this year’s Travelers’ Choice Attractions Awards, with 3,844 rating it “excellent” and 543 “very good”.

It scored higher than famous historic sites such as Petra in Jordan, India’s Taj Mahal and St Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City.

It was the number one attraction in Abu Dhabi, seeing off competition from Yas Marina Circuit and Emirates Palace.

Holger Schroth, the general manager of the Emirates Palace, said the mosque was the most popular attraction with hotel guests, and one the concierge team actively promoted.

“I am happy to see that it has risen to this latest ranking and I believe this is a testament to the fact that our guests appreciate the preservation of Arabic culture and traditions in Abu Dhabi,” he said.

The high rating was also a good omen for the emirate as a tourist destination, he added. “This prominent position on TripAdvisor’s landmark list will entice more visitors, from the region and abroad, to explore all that Abu Dhabi has to offer,” Mr Schroth said.

Philipp Economou, general manager of the Holiday Inn Abu Dhabi, said the mosque’s ranking was good news for the hotel, which has stunning views of the landmark.

“Given that one could wake up to a view of the Grand Mosque from our rooms, coupled with this ranking, curiosity levels among travellers will definitely rise and we think it will increase our reservations,” he said. Like many hotels in the city, the Holiday Inn provides a shuttle-bus service to the mosque..see more

source: thenational.ae